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Pinnacle provides update on improvements at Prince Rupert export terminal

Vaughan Bassett, Pinnacle Renewable Energy
Vaughan Bassett, Pinnacle Renewable Energy's senior vice-president of sales and logistics, points to wood pellet dust sitting onto of silos at Westview Terminal. The dust blew out of the silos from the neccessary aeration fans, with Pinnacle deciding to close off fans facing the community to prevent dust from making its way to nearby homes.
— image credit: Martina Perry photo

Pinnacle Renewable Energy and the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) promised more would be done to address Prince Rupert residents' concerns with Westview Terminal more than a month ago, and while changes have been made complaints continue to trickle in.

An adaptive management plan was implemented at Westview Terminal in the last month in an effort to decrease noise, dust and odour associated with the operation. Pinnacle also invited members of the community on a walk-through of the facility that approximately 10 people participated in.

"An overriding objective of ours is to be good neighbours," said Vaughan Bassett, Pinnacle Renewable Energy's senior vice-president of sales and logistics.

Bassett said the major issue with Westview Terminal is noise, which Pinnacle is concentrating its efforts on. The gear box motors at the top of the terminal's bucket elevator system are suspected to be the biggest contributor, with noise deflectors being installed several months ago. Bassett admitted they haven't worked out as well as the company hoped.

"We're looking at putting in some acoustical shielding inside of that structure. We hope to have that in place in about four to five weeks time," he said.

In addition to procedural and training-related improvements taking place at the terminal, the adaptive management plan also includes changes to equipment use.

With some pointing to dust escaping from silo vents as a main contributor of airborne dust, Bassett said vents facing the community are now blocked off.

"What we have now is venting out toward the ocean. It's used sparingly, and we try to only use it when we're having an offshore breeze," he said.

In an attempt to reduce smell from the terminal, Bassett said the aeration fans that keep wood pellets stored inside of silos from reaching an unsafe temperature are also being used sparingly, with usage being limited to when there's an offshore breeze whenever possible.

Despite changes, there were still a significant number of complaints received through the PRPA's community comment form over the last month; a total of 28 between June 22 and July 19. The highest number of complaints were collected during the week of July 6 when 13 comments pertaining to air quality, noise and other issues such as odour were recorded, followed by nine throughout the week of June 22.

"Complaints are usually related to loading of a vessel visit at Pinnacle. When operations are conspicuous, like dust at the top of the silos, trains moving and creating noise pollution or vessels running through the night, is when we tend to get the most commentary from the community," said Michael Gurney, the PRPA's manager of corporate communications, adding complaints are brought to Pinnacle's attention each week.

Mark Bunch, Westview Terminal manager, said the aim is to not only stay under guidelines set by the government but to do whatever is possible to minimize nearby residents' concerns in daily operations.

"Is it more difficult to work that way? Absolutely. But is it the right thing to do? Absolutely," Bunch said.

"To be able to coexist in this tight of an environment takes an awful lot."

And that was the reason Water Street homeowner Ken Shaw was vocal in his opposition of the project during its environmental assessment phase.

"I wasn't against the project, I was against its location ... I felt it would be better located in an industrial area," he said in a June interview with the Northern View.

Shaw said he believes Westview Terminal is operating better than many similar facilities, with ongoing complaints stemming more from the terminal's placement than its practices.

"All those problems that they have, typical start up problems, are quite manageable in an industrial setting," he said.

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